The black & white “challenge”

Recently I’ve started to get a bit bored with the images I’ve been making, so I decided to challenge myself a little bit.

I hadn’t been using my Lumix GX7 much, and I was also thinking of doing more black and white photography, so combining the two seemed to make sense, as one of my favourite presets on the GX7 is the Dynamic Monochrome filter.

After some thought, I decided to shoot only black and white using the GX7 for the next few weeks or so, but if I wanted to do any colour I was still “allowed” to use my Nikon D50, but sparingly.

This morning, I headed over to my new favourite spot for flower photography, armed with my GX7 and Helios-44M-4 58mm f2 lens. The Helios is fast becoming my favourite lens, whether it’s mounted on my GX7 or D50.

Here are my favourites from the day:

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The Temperate House @ Kew

On Saturday 5th May, Kew Gardens finally reopened the Temperate House, the largest surviving Victoria glasshouse in the world, after 5 years of refurbishment works. Of course I had to go down to Kew to check it out for myself and to get a few photos.

It was a beautifully sunny day, perfect for getting lost in nature and shooting some of my favourite colour negative film!

All these photos were taken with my Nikon FM and Nikkor-H 50mm f2 lens on Agfaphoto Vista Plus 200. I love how this roll came out – look at those golds and greens! – and I’m so mad this film is being discontinued! 😦

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Why do I shoot film?

Not so long ago, I got back my first ever roll of Velvia 50, and although I fell in love with the roll, it made me question why exactly I was shooting film.

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Velvia 50

I absolutely loved how the images came out – in fact I would go so far as to say that it’s my absolute favourite roll of film that I have ever shot – but when comparing them to photos I’d taken on the same day with my Lumix GX7 and Helios lens, then processed in the VSCO app, they were remarkably similar.

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GX7 + VSCO

Just the other day, I also received back a roll of Ektar, and again I loved the results… but again, they reminded me a lot of my digital images taken around the same time.

I had to ask myself why am I shooting film when the results are so similar to what I can capture digitally? Why am I shooting film when the aesthetic I prefer is apparently so close to a digital image’s aesthetic?

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Ektar 100

In the end, I came up with 5 reasons why.

Firstly, I really enjoy the process of shooting film. Loading the film, winding it on, the clack of the advance lever, the smack of the shutter, getting to that end of the roll and hoping that you didn’t f*ck up any of the images, the suspense of waiting for your scans to get back from the lab (one day I will develop my own film!).

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GX7 + VSCO

I enjoy how film forces me to slow down; you can’t spray and pray when you only have 36 frames that can cost you as much as £10, and that’s not including the cost of getting them developed! I definitely have a higher keeper rate when I’m shooting film. With digital, there is too much temptation to just keep taking shot after shot until it’s “just right” (and then invariably I’ll get home and discover the 1st shot I took was indeed the best one).

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GX7 + VSCO

Thirdly, even though the aesthetic of Ektar and Velvia may be similar, there is still a difference. Film retains highlights better and has a wider dynamic range, and generally I prefer the colour and contrast rendered by film compared to a digital image. Of course, as I do not process and scan my own film (yet), I have no idea how much of this is the film and how much of it is the lab, however each film definitely has its own look to my eyes. I also love the organic look of film’s fine grain.

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Ektar

Fourthly, it’s just fun! Toy cameras are great little tools to play around with, and give a unique look and feel to your images that is not easily duplicated with digital. Then there’s the different types of film to try out; it’s like swapping out your sensor after every 36 shots. I’ve just been shooting on some Lomochrome Purple with my Helios-44M-4 58mm f2 lens mounted on my Nikon FM! Why shoot film if you’re not going to experiment?

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Ektar

And lastly but not least, I love shooting with old cameras. One of my favourites to shoot is my Nikon FM. They just have a certain character and aesthetic appeal that I am 100% in love with. Best of all, with the FM, I don’t have to worry about having batteries fully charged before I take it out for a spin. It just works! Ok, there is a battery powering the meter, but ummm you know they have lightmeter phone apps now, right? 🙂

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GX7 + VSCO

It’s for these reasons that I’ll never entirely give up shooting film, but at the same time I plan to shoot less of it because it’s quite expensive, especially when you don’t have the means to process and scan your own film. I can’t save up for a scanner when I’m spending £30 a month getting my film developed after all!

I bought a 13-year-old DSLR

There are people out there who would lead you to believe that digital photography is expensive.

Well, what if I told you that you don’t need to spend all your money on the latest and greatest, nor do you need to upgrade every year?

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If you need excellent high ISO performance and Live View, or super fast autofocus for sports or rambunctious kids, then fine, an old camera probably won’t cut it. But if you’re like me, and you’re mostly shooting during the day, and most of your subjects are still or barely moving, save your money.

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I bought a Nikon D50.

I missed having a DSLR to use my AF Nikkor lenses with, so I thought long and hard about whether to invest in another camera. I knew I wanted it to be lightweight (or at least lighter than the D300 I used to own), and it needed to be fully compatible with my AF lenses.

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After much umm-ing and aaah-ing, and a little research, I settled on the D50. The D50 was the D40’s predecessor, and unlike the D40 (that I used to own and love), it had a built-in focus motor that allowed it to autofocus with Nikon’s older AF lenses. It is also a smaller and lighter camera than the D80 and D90 that I was considering, and of course much cheaper; I snapped up mine on eBay for £63 including p&p, and it only had 1300 shutter actuations!

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So far it has worked like a dream, and I’m actually surprised by how good the image quality is. There is really not much between it and some of today’s cameras at low ISO settings.

And if something happens to it tomorrow, at least I’ve only lost £63 🙂

All the photos in this post were shot with the Nikon D50 and processed in VSCO on my iPad Pro.

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Nikon FM – Roll 3: Fuji Superia 200

The Nikon FM is fast becoming my favourite camera. Paired with my Nikkor-H Auto 50mm f2 lens, it’s a real beauty to shoot with, and to look at! I’ve reduced my SLRs down to just the FM, the F80, and the D50 (my Nikon EM, FG-20 and Canon A-1 are firmly in my selling pile, if I ever get around to it). Yes, I quietly bought another DSLR and I’m absolutely loving it (although not as much as the FM, obvs). It’s much lighter than the D300 I sold, and is fully compatible with Nikon’s older AF lenses (unlike its successor, the D40).

Anyway, 

Here are my fave images from one of the latest rolls out of my FM, expired Superia 200 shot at EI 100. As you will see, half of it was shot on a gray day in Victoria Embankment Gardens, near Embankment tube station, and the other half was shot on a sunny day (mostly at Kew Gardens). It’s funny how much sunshine makes a difference.

The roll was processed and scanned by FilmDev; excellent work as usual from them! And can we talk about how I nailed the focus in almost every single shot?! 😀

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I love (lomochrome) purple

Purple is actually my favourite colour, so for the longest time I’ve been wanting to try out Lomography’s Lomochrome Purple film. It was out of stock for AGES but finally they got some more in a month or so again, and I immediately bought a roll in 35mm and one in 120. (At the time I was a bit broke so couldn’t justify buying more, but since then I’ve bought a 5-pack of 35mm to slowly burn through.)

I decided to put that first roll of 35mm through my Nikon F80 because 1) it has excellent metering, 2) I wanted to try doing a few multiple exposures, and my F80 has that function built-in, and 3) I wanted to use my 105mm Micro-Nikkor lens to see how it and this film worked together.

Once again, I was EXTREMELY PLEASED with the results, although nothing will ever top that Velvia. Nope.

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A somewhat successful multiple exposure?

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Another somewhat successful multiple exposure?

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Obligatory cat photo!

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Next time I shoot a roll of this, I will probably put it through my F80 again, so I can do more multiple exposures, and I want to try doing some true macro shots with it too. However, I love how this film turns blue skies cyan, so I will also be putting a roll of it through my Superheadz Yellow Peace camera next time we have clear skies and sunshine in London!

Nikon EM and Acros 100

When I heard that Acros 100 was going to be discontinued, I decided to snap up a few rolls on eBay. I had never tried this film and really wanted to give it a try before it disappeared for good!

I decided (for some reason) to load it into my Nikon EM, a new-to-me camera at the time that appeared to be working properly but that had been sold to me untested. This was shot during one of our few snow days earlier this year.

Here are the results.

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Note how the bottom half of the image is darker than the rest. This occurs in other images as well (right side is dark on image in portrait orientation)

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As you can probably see from a few of the scans, something is either wrong with the Nikon EM’s shutter or something went wrong with the development process. Also, on closer examination of the scans, I noticed a lot of white marks that look like they’re the result of dust on the scanner or negatives. Kind of disappointing, especially when this was the first time I’d used this particular lab (AG Photo Lab), but they did a great job on my other rolls: 3x C41 and 1x E6.

Aside from those issues, I really like this film! Fuji, could you stop discontinuing stuff and let us have nice things!!!

I’ve sent another roll from the EM to a lab that I’ve used before with no issues (FilmDev) to see if the same issue occurs. If it does, it’s the camera; if it isn’t, maybe I won’t send my b&w film to that particular lab again. Watch this space!

A Walk In The Park Part 2 – Superheadz + Superia 400

Part 1.

finally finished the roll of Fuji Superia 400 in my Superheadz Yellow Peace camera. Pretty sure it had been in there for the best part of a year!

Here are the images from Beckenham Place Park:

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Slightly cropped due to rebellious thumb getting into the frame!

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I’m pleased with how these came out. Obviously they’re not as high in quality compared to the Trip’s images on the same day, but I like the look of them; they’re a bit rough around the edges, but sometimes you don’t want perfection! I like their more obvious lo-fi, analogue look, thanks to the camera’s little plastic wide-angle lens (22mm).

This camera definitely prefers as much light as possible, so my plan is to load it up with some Lomochrome Purple the next time London has a sunny day, and hopefully some magic will happen 🙂

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A Walk In The Park Part 1 – Olympus Trip 35 + Kodak Gold 200.

A few Saturdays ago, I decided to finally finish off the rolls of film in my Olympus Trip 35 and Superheadz Yellow Peace cameras. The roll of Kodak Gold 200 had been loaded into my Trip way back in September 2017, after my visit to Berlin, and the Fuji Superia 400 had been in the Superheadz camera some months before that!

The weather was lovely – sunny but not too hot, with clear blue skies –  and I didn’t want to stray too far from home, so I headed to my favourite spot of ancient woodland nearby: Beckenham Place Park.

Here are my favourite images from the Olympus Trip 35 and Kodak Gold 200.

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I love this building, and the way the trees frame it. Could not resist snapping a pic!

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They have a purple door… i just had to.

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So many bluebells!!!

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Light leak caused by me being a total n00b but I love how it turned out!

Once again, the Trip has proven itself to be a reliable little beast, and I’m so pleased that I have apparently nailed zone focusing! Well, for this roll at least.

 

My “little” walk also reminded me how much I enjoy using this camera, and that I really need to take it out more often. Instead of my GX7, I should be picking up the Trip. Next time I go into London for a photo walk, it’s coming along!

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Velvia and Me

Why haven’t I been shooting slide film all this time?!

As previously mentioned, I wasn’t 100% happy with the film I’d been shooting; the colours just weren’t doing anything for me.

Well, I’ve found my one true love: Velvia 50!

For ages I’d had a roll of Velvia loaded in my Nikon F80, and I finally decided to shoot it a couple of weeks ago, mostly at Kew Gardens of course, and get it “properly” processed (#SayNoToXpro). The roll was developed by AG Photo Lab; this was my first time using them, and I was really pleased with their service for the most part, although the turnaround time (slower than my usual labs) made me veer more towards anxious than excited about receiving my scans back.

I am OVER THE MOON with the results and can’t wait to shoot more! In fact, I’ve ordered another roll, and the plan is to very very slowly shoot it in my Nikon F80. Ah, the benefit of having multiple cameras. My FM, FG-20 and other cameras will be reserved for lesser films 😉

I’m just blown away by how Velvia has seamlessly produced what I’ve been trying to emulate in post-processing with my digital images.

So, at the moment, my go-to films stand as thus:

  1. Kodak Ektar 100.
  2. Kodak Portra 160/400.
  3. Fuji Superia 200/400.
  4. Agfaphoto Vista Plus 200/Fuji C200.
  5. Fuji Velvia 50 (would be #1 if it wasn’t so expensive!!!).

Anyway, here are a few from that magical roll 🙂

I will be uploading these and more to my Instagram over the coming weeks if you’d like to follow me on there!